Earthquake brings Courtenay school infrastructure issues to light

G.P. Vanier Secondary School in need of an overhaul

vanier logo

Just one day before an earthquake was felt around the Comox Valley, the school board heard about how best to ensure high-risk G.P. Vanier Secondary School is seismically safe.

A magnitude 6.7 earthquake struck off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island Wednesday evening and was felt as far away as Kelowna. Coincidentally, Tuesday evening’s board of education meeting featured a presentation outlining five options to make Vanier seismically safe, which include: a life safety retrofit estimated to cost $28.8 million; a replacement school at $41.6 million; a phased retrofit at $11.4 million; a hybrid at $28.2 million; and a hybrid full scope $36.7 million.

“From the school district’s point of view the two solutions that fully meet the interests of the board are of course the replacement school, which is brand new and it gives you all that new space and new design,” said secretary treasurer Russell Horswill. “The other one is the hybrid full scope because it allows us to ensure that all of the area is modernized … and likely would be a solution where we don’t need to come back to the school for 30 years to come.”

However, Horswill pointed out the Education Ministry does not support those two, more expensive, options.

Vanier was announced in May 2012 as one of 14 schools to be included in the Province’s Seismic Mitigation Program. After some initial studies, the Board of Education voted in October of that year to request a replacement school in its capital plan submission to the Education Ministry. Vanier was built in the 1960s and needs costly upgrades elsewhere besides seismic upgrades, such as replacement of its HVAC (heating ventilation and air conditioning) infrastructure.

District director of operations Ian Heselgrave said Tuesday while replacement of the school is not at all supported by the ministry, a hybrid option would be a “pretty good option” for the district.

The hybrid option includes building new space at the school, then using that as a ‘swing space’, as construction commences on other parts of the building.

“And then you would remove, hopefully, the oldest and nastiest bit of the school, and you would end up with a pretty good, nice new building,” he continued.

Horswill added the price difference between the hybrid ($28.8 million) and hybrid full scope ($36.7 million) is because the full scope option includes HVAC, electrical, architectural and building insulation upgrades, too. The price could come down a bit on the full scope option, said Horswill, noting some studies have yet to come back from consultants.

While the ministry has said it supports the hybrid option but not the hybrid full scope, district staff will advocate for the full scope option, as per direction from the Board of Education, he said.

“The rest of the studies that are outstanding need to received and once that has been done and we can quantify the infrastructure deficiencies in the remaining area, at that time we’ll be in a position to have some more discussions within the ministry … to make sure they understand the scope of work,” said Horswill.

Local capital to come from the district is estimated at $420,000.

The “hopeful” timeline for the project, according to Horswill, includes completion of the Project Definition Report by June, and a Capital Projection Agreement signed with the ministry by September. Construction could start as early as March with estimated completion in August 2017.

While Horswill said having 1,100 to 1,200 students plus staff around a construction zone certainly makes for a “complex project,” the first 18 months of construction would be the new space at the back of the school, meaning less disruption to students.

writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

 

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